When the owners of Wellington restaurant Koji open their new wine bar, you won’t have to travel far between the two. Rosella will launch in early October at 18 Majoribanks Street – a grand total of 19 metres away from the modern Asian eatery.
Co-founder and chef Johnon MacDonald says he’d had his eye on the site (which housed Restaurant Amok until earlier this year) since it was home to Ambeli between 2006 and 2013.
“I’ve always liked the spot and we were actively looking around the city for different things,” he tells Broadsheet. “We were thinking about what we’d like to do next and we’d always intended to open something else other than Koji.”
MacDonald and his partner Kat Strand opened Koji in November 2021, having returned to New Zealand after more than two decades in Australia that saw MacDonald cooking at restaurants like Neil Perry’s Rockpool on George in Sydney, and Gingerboy in Melbourne, as well as running venues for Canberra-based hospitality group Harvac.
“That taught me to step out of the kitchens and still have them be world-class, and really train and mentor my teams,” says MacDonald of his experience with Harvac, which has six venues including pan-Asian restaurant Akiba.
While MacDonald has worked predominantly with a breadth of Asian cuisines – and that's Koji’s wheelhouse – he and Strand have decided to focus on Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African flavours at Rosella. “I’ve got a love for all cuisines, I don’t have a favourite – I just love anything to do with food,” he says. “Big flavour bombs is what I’m about – big, bold and fresh flavours.”
When it opens, Rosella will seat around 70 patrons over two storeys. Strand has designed the interior herself to incorporate tiled bars, textured walls and wine bottles on display. Upstairs will be a cocktail lounge that’s bookable for functions, and open until around 1am.
Food-wise, expect sharing plates that suit a variety of occasions. “There will be a lot of snacky things as well as bigger items – it’s definitely a place you can come to have a few bites but also have a full meal, and we’ll do a feed-me menu,” says MacDonald. “It’s a restaurant and wine bar, not just a wine bar.”
Koji bar manager Oliver Middleton will be overseeing the drinks list, which will include fresh, herbaceous cocktails that go well with MacDonald’s full-flavoured menu.
Rosella is scheduled to open in early October at 18 Majoribanks Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington.